What Is Catalog Marketing?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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Catalog marketing is one of the more common strategies used in promoting the sale of goods and service, and is usually classed as a direct selling method. The approach involves the preparation of a listing of items offered for sale, usually with a description of each product, the price, and other relevant data. While traditional catalog marketing is associated with the printing of catalogs that are distributed through the mail, this same approach can also be used as part of the in-store marketing concept as well as merchandising efforts conducted online.

With the most common form of catalog marketing, a seller prepares and distributes a printed copy of a catalog to consumers. This approach to marketing is not new, with many retailers using catalogs sent by post to customers ever since the 19th century. During the middle years of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for these catalogs to be referred to as "wish books," since recipients would often make use of the detail in the catalogs to identify items they wished to purchase at some point in the future.


Along with mailing catalogs through the post, catalog marketing can also be used as an in-store selling approach. Many department stores include a catalog department in the floor plan, allowing customers to browse and order from the catalogs while actually in the store. Payment terms are usually arranged at that time. Some stores will also strategically place free catalogs near the entrances so that shopper can easily take one when entering or leaving the store, a strategy that can often trigger additional sales over time.

Just about every type of retailer has used catalog marketing over the years. Specialty shops as well as large department store chains have used this approach to connect with and generate sales from consumers. Most of the catalogs will include ordering information that outlines the various methods that consumers can place the orders, ranging from telephoning the order to the provider to entering the order at an online site. Delivery options will also vary, ranging from shipment directly to the consumer’s residence or other provided address, to delivering the goods to a the local branch of the retailer and notifying the customer when the order is ready for pickup.

While catalog marketing is usually considered a strategy that requires the distribution of printed material, many retailers also commonly use online catalogs. These electronic catalogs allow for quick searches based on item name, price range, and other relevant factors. Many also allow the consumer to select items for placement in a virtual shopping cart, then use online methods to pay for the items and arrange for shipment. One of the benefits of online catalog marketing is that shoppers can literally make purchases around the clock, a distinct advantage over more traditional methods.


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